Following a rise in tensions between India and Pakistan, airlines are beginning to delay and cancel flights to the region. This comes as Pakistan closes its airspace, while the BBC reports that 9 airports in Northern India are closed.
— CAA Pakistan (@AirportPakistan) February 27, 2019
Earlier today Pakistan forces reportedly shot down two Indian military aircraft operating in their airspace. They say that they captured two pilots. India claims that only one aircraft was shot down with a pilot missing in action. They have also claimed that they shot down a Pakistani military jet.
Flights Delayed, Diverted, Cancelled
The escalating tensions are already having an effect on a number of flights due in the region. Two United Airlines flights en route to India have diverted to Europe. UA82 had been en route from Newark to Delhi. Around 7 hours into its flight, it changed heading and diverted to London Heathrow Airport. The story is similar for UA48. This flight was almost 8 hours in when it made a u-turn over Russia and diverted to Frankfurt Airport.
A United Representative told Simple Flying: “Following closure of the airspace over Pakistan, United flights en route to India were diverted today as follows:
-UA82 (New York/Newark – Delhi) diverted to London Heathrow airport. The aircraft landed at 12:22 p.m. (local time). The onward flight to Delhi has now been cancelled.
-UA48 (New York/Newark – Mumbai) diverted to Frankfurt airport. The aircraft landed at 1:05 p.m. (local time).”
He Added: “We are providing our customers with meal vouchers and hotel accommodation and are working on alternative arrangements for our customers to complete their journeys at the earliest opportunity. We are closely monitoring this situation and are in contact with relevant government authorities. We will continue to provide updates to our customers.”
British Airways appears to be delaying flights, however, BA143 from London to Delhi has just departed according to online flight tracking sources. It was scheduled to depart the gate at 1115UTC, however, this was pushed back to 1219UTC. British Airways also has a flight to Delhi departing at 1850UTC. This is currently delayed until at least 1946UTC. Simple Flying contacted a British Airways spokesperson who said: “We are monitoring the situation closely. Our flight plans vary frequently depending on a number of factors, but our highest and first priority is always the safety of our customers and crew.” British Airways is set to start operating flights to Pakistan in June.
The 2150 Virgin Atlantic departure from Heathrow to Delhi is currently scheduled to run on time. Simple Flying has contacted Virgin Atlantic regarding the status of VS300, who told us: “The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our priority, and we’re closely monitoring developments in Pakistani air space, which is currently closed. As a result we are expecting slightly longer flight times to flights to and from Delhi today and tomorrow (27 – 28 February).”
Pakistan Airspace Closed
The Civil Aviation Authority has currently closed all Pakistani airspace. This was put in force at 0730UTC and is currently scheduled to last until at least 2359UTC on 28th February. While this stops all flights into and out of Pakistan, it also has an effect on flights to parts of India from Europe and the United States.
A large number of flights from the western hemisphere would typically pass through Pakistani airspace en route to India. It is unclear at this time whether the airspace closure may continue beyond Thursday.
“Check Before Travel”
The UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth office today issued new guidance for travelling to the region. They have advised against all travel to the border region between Pakistan and India. This is due to “heightened tensions between India and Pakistan”. Additionally, they have stated: “in response to these tensions, Pakistan has announced the closure of its airspace, effective until 11.59pm on 28 February; there are no commercial flights operating to, from or within Pakistan at this time; you should check with your airline before travelling to the airport for flights to and from Pakistan”
Simple Flying has contacted representatives of United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office for comment. We will keep readers up to date with developments on this story.
Have you been affected by the closure of Pakistani Airspace? Let us know in the comments down below!